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Journalists of color hit hard in seismic L.A. Times layoffs

“The company has reneged on its promises to diversify its ranks since young journalists of color have been disproportionately affected,” the newspaper’s union says.
The Los Angeles Times Headquarters in El Segundo California
The Los Angeles Times building and newsroom along Imperial Highway in El Segundo, Calif., in 2020. Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images file

In a move that jolted the journalism industry Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times, one of the leading newspapers in the country, laid off more than 115 journalists, a gash that affects several journalists of color.

Nearly a quarter of its newsroom staff members were given notice Tuesday that their last days with the company would be in March.

“The company has reneged on its promises to diversify its ranks since young journalists of color have been disproportionately affected,” the Los Angeles Times Guild said in a statement Tuesday. “The Black, AAPI, and Latino Caucuses have suffered devastating losses. Voluntary buyouts could have helped prevent this, but that’s not the path the company chose.”

The team behind De Los, a vertical the Times launched in 2023 to cover the city’s 49% Latino population, was gutted. Jeong Park, who was hired to cover Asian American communities in 2022, was also laid off. 

Kevin Merida, who is Black, resigned this month as a prelude of what was to come. The Times’ owner, billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, said the paper and Merida had “mutually agreed” to part ways, but the announcement was stunning.

Managing editors Sara Yasin, who is Palestinian American, and Shani Hilton, who is Black, also recently resigned.

Editors and other workers of the L.A. Times Guild walked off the job Friday in protest of the forthcoming cuts, creating the first work stoppage in the newsroom by the union in the Times’ 143 years of existence.

Soon-Shiong said the paper was losing $30 million to $40 million a year. He said he has invested nearly $1 billion into the newspaper since he purchased it in 2018, “underscoring our dedication to preserving its legacy and securing its future.” 

“Today’s decision is painful for all, but it is imperative that we act urgently and take steps to build a sustainable and thriving paper for the next generation,” Soon-Shiong said in a statement published by the Times. “We are committed to doing so.”

Los Angeles Times Guild Holds Walkout And Rally In Response To Planned Jobs Cuts
Los Angeles Times Guild members at a rally Friday outside Los Angeles City Hall during a one-day walkout against "significant" imminent layoffs at the Times. The one-day strike was the first newsroom work stoppage in the newspaper's 142-year history.Mario Tama / Getty Images

Nonetheless, Matt Pearce, the president of the Media Guild of the West, which represents journalists throughout Southern California, Texas and Arizona, described the moment as a “dark day.” He added in a statement that “many departments and clusters across the newsroom will be heavily hit. This total, while devastating, is nonetheless far lower than the number of layoffs the Bargaining Committee was expecting last week.”

The Times has a seniority clause, which puts the most recent hires on the chopping block first when cuts would have to be made. After the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020, the paper — like many outlets — invested in covering marginalized communities. Almost four years later, those workers were among the most recent hires.

Staff members in the Washington bureau and on the business and breaking news desks were hit, as well.

The cuts come a week after Spanish-language network Univision laid off more than 200 employees, including on-air talent.

Adrian Carrasquillo, a national political reporter for The Messenger who writes about Latin politics in America, said on X: “One of the greatest losses of Latino journalism talent and experience and community memory ever. Heartbreaking as a journalist and someone who cares about covering the community.”

The union’s statement also said: “We still believe in the Los Angeles Times and the important role it plays in a vibrant democracy. But a newspaper can’t play that role when its staff has been cut to the bone. Los Angeles is a first-class city and needs a first-class newsroom to check its leaders, celebrate its victories, and tell the stories of its people.”

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CORRECTION (Jan. 23, 2024, 11:35 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated who was the first Black executive editor of the Los Angeles Times. It was Dean Baquet, not Kevin Merida.